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Safety Check: Emergency Action Plans
Emergency Action Plans: Creating a plan and effectively communicating it can prevent an accident from becoming a disaster. Consider these tips to improve your employee training and disaster preparation.
By Jary Winstead
Date Posted: 4/1/2014
An accident, fire or medical emergency can happen at any time, and it is important that all employees know what to do in the event of an emergency.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that most workplaces have an emergency action plan that identifies the emergency action steps specific to the worksite. Information regarding emergency action plans can be found in OSHA Standard 1910.38.
The plan must be in writing, be kept in the workplace and be available to all employees. Employers with 10 or fewer year-around workers may have a verbal plan. When the verbal plan is allowed, employers need to have the plan in writing for the purpose of documentation and training.
Remember, if you haven’t documented it, you have no way of proving it was ever done. I recommend that the emergency action plan, and all the required components of it, be in writing and posted no matter the number of employees.
In accordance to the OSHA Standard 1910.38, the minimum requirements of the emergency action plan must include:
• Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency
• Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments
• Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
• Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation
• Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties
• The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
To simplify the Emergency Action Plan, let’s break down the OSHA requirements one by one.
1.) Procedures for Reporting a Fire or Other Emergency
This component of the plan must identify how to report an emergency, and it must be more in depth than pick up a phone and call 911. The following are items and information this component of the plan should address:
• The OSHA Standard states that there must be a communication system to alert employees or an employee alarm system with a distinctive signal for each purpose. In other words, there must be a means of communication for the purpose of notifying personnel of the emergency. Not all mills and production facilities have communication available at all locations of the property. Phones, radios, an intercom, alarm system, or other communication methods must be available for employees.
• The procedures should include who must be notified at the workplace, and how to report the emergency to authorities.
• Address or directions of the workplace
• Locations of fire extinguishers
2.) Procedures for Emergency Evacuation, Including Type of Evacuation and Exit Route Assignments
This component details your evacuation policies and procedures, the types of exits, the routes of egress, and where the exits are located. A location map specific to areas or departments should be part of this written procedure. The maps should list the egress and exit points that are specific to that department or area. Sidebar 1 is an example of an emergency evacuation procedure that I use for my clients.
3.) Procedures to be Followed by Employees Who Remain to Operate Critical Plant Operations Before They Evacuate
In the event of an emergency, employees need to know what must be done in order to safely shut down equipment to prevent additional damage This component will identify department members and key personnel and their duties for the emergency operation or shut down of critical equipment. Only those performing these critical tasks will remain in the area.
At a minimum, these procedures should include:
• Who is responsible for completing the procedures
• Any emergency shutdown procedures specific to the equipment being operated
• Power supply shut off locations and procedures
• Gates, valves, gas line, or fuel pump emergency shut offs
• Doors that must remain open
• Doors that must be closed to prevent the fire from spreading
4.) Procedures to Account for All Employees After Evacuation
Each facility needs to have a person that is in charge of accounting for personnel, once the evacuation has taken place. The number of persons that will take account of personnel depends on the size of the operation. In large facilities it is a good idea to have department heads account for their personnel, and then provide a report to the person in charge of the overall accounting of personnel. This component will identify who these persons are, and by what means they will use to account for all personnel.
A list of department personnel must be used in order to account for each and every person. This information is critical when responding emergency services personnel need to know who is missing, and where they may be located.
5.) Procedures to be Followed by Employees Performing Rescue or Medical Duties
This component of the plan must identify what to do in case of a medical emergency. If your operation is remote, has a large workforce, or is not in close proximity to emergency medical services, you must have first aid trained personnel. At a minimum, this component of the plan should include:
• How to report a medical emergency
• Method of communication
• Who to report to
• Who at the workplace has first aid training and their role
• Location of first aid equipment
• Any relevant rescue policies and procedures that may be specific to your workplace
• Information regarding directing emergency personnel to remote areas such as yards, large buildings, or other hard to find locations
6.) Names or Job Titles of Employees to Contact to Get More Information about the Duties of Employees Under the Plan.
This component of the plan must identify who is responsible for specific duties. In the plan, it has identified some of those persons and their responsibilities in the individual components. This information should also identify by name and position:
• Who the program administrator is
• Who provides the training
• Who personnel can contact if they should have any questions regarding the Emergency Action Plan
The entire staff must receive documented training on your Emergency Action Plan. It should be part of the New Employee Safety Training Orientation that we discussed in a previous article.
In accordance to the OSHA Standard, training must be provided as follows:
• The employer must review the plan with each covered employee at his/her initial assignment.
• When the employee’s responsibilities under the plan change
• When revisions to the plan are made due to the following: building changes, equipment changes, egress or exits change, environmental changes
• Annual refresher training
All written programs and plans should be reviewed periodically to assure that the programs and plans remain effective. Written programs and plans may need to be adapted or changed to ensure they remain suitable to changes in processes, job tasks, accident trends, hazards in the workplace, and state and federal standards.
You can obtain additional information regarding Emergency Action Plans by contacting OSHA, or by visiting the OSHA website (http://www.osha.gov/)
Editor’s Note: Jary Winstead is a safety consultant, author and trainer who serves a variety of industries including the forest products sector. He owns Work Safety Services LLC and can be reached at SAFEJARY@aol.com.
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
In the event of an emergency in which it is necessary to evacuate the workplace such as a fire, gas leak, chemical spill, or a disaster such as an earthquake, the following procedures should be followed.
Remember, life safety is paramount, the evacuation process should take place immediately. Evacuation should not be delayed to see if the hazard can be eliminated. Key personnel that are directly involved in addressing the hazard should remain only if their life safety is not at risk.
1. Using the intercom system, notify all personnel of the need to evacuate.
2. Activate the building’s alarm system.
3. Call 911 emergency services and notify them of the emergency.
4. Each department manager, or other designated person, must ensure that all personnel in their department are notified of the need to evacuate, and that they evacuate.
5. Evacuate the building immediately in a quick, but orderly manner, using the nearest safe exit.
6. Assist other employees in the evacuation process.
7. Close the doors in each area after personnel have evacuated.
8. All personnel must report to the pre-designated area outside of the building at a specified meeting location.
9. Take account of all personnel, identify personnel that are not present, or that have not evacuated the building. Give this information to emergency personnel.
10. Re-enter the building only after emergency services, or the fire department has given permission. Do not attempt to rescue personnel, rescues should be performed by trained professionals.